from the safety-razor dept
This week, like so many weeks, had plenty of stupidity and ridiculous statements flying around. When Rep. Peter King claimed that referring to the NSA as spying is "slander", he backed it up with the insistence that "the current threat to the Homeland is just as high as it was before 9/11." An anonymous commenter won most insightful comment of the week by latching on to the admission implicit in that statement:
So ... Is he admitting that the loss to our civil liberties and the billions of dollars we've spent on homeland security has accomplished nothing? Thank you. Mr King.
Meanwhile, in reporting on the ongoing Lavabit situation, we noted that "it sounds like the feds were asking for a full on backdoor on the system." Qw won second most insightful comment by issuing a small correction:
No. Nope. It doesn't sound like they were "asking".
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start with John Fenderson responding to Michael Bloomberg's complaint that the court ignored crime reduction statistics when declaring the stop-and-frisk program unconstitutional:
And the judge was incredibly right to ignore it. Like with the defense of NSA spying ("but the program has stopped terrorist attacks!") -- that the technique may be effective is completely, totally, 100% irrelevant. What's relevant is if the actions are Constitutional.
This is ethics 101: the ends (usually) don't justify the means. I understand why power-hungry people like to ignore this, but we should remind everyone else of it. These sorts of defenses deserve nothing less than ridicule.
Of course, the NSA situation that John mentioned also provides a shining example of the opposite, with James Clapper setting up an "independent review" of the NSA's practices. Sorrykb couldn't help but notice that the priorities of the review are as muddled as you'd expect:
Something's missingThe Review Group will assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.I keep re-reading that last part, looking for the word "privacy". Or "constitutional".
Instead, all I see is "Trust us" and "DESTROY ALL WHISTLEBLOWERS."
Over on the funny side, first place goes to Lord Binky replying to one of our most-recognizable detractors with an excellent response to the claim that our community voting system for hiding comments is "censorship":
In your case it isn't censorship, it's quarantine.
That comment came in on our post about Richard Bennett's silly claims that bad reviews on Susan Crawford's book were an elaborate double-fakout rather than simple astroturfing. That's also the source of the second place comment, since it led to lots of great discussion, both editor's choices on the funny side too. Our second funniest comment of the week comes from an anonymous commenter with a rogue third theory:
Both theories are wrong.
The reality is that the reviews are actually part of a *triple* reverse sabotage. They were written by telco astroturfers pretending to be Free Press fake-astroturfers pretending to be telco astroturfers.
Back when we were brainstorming headlines for that post, I had originally tried to work "Occam's Razor" in there somehow, since those two words really sum up the idiocy of the double-fakeout argument. The readers made sure it got its due, though, with multiple good comments on the subject. My favorite came from testscore, because I love a good mashup, even (perhaps especially) one mixing Occam's Razor and chaos theory:
suggests that the reviews are actually the direct result of a butterfly flapping its wings in China.
But, as Mike noted on that post, Bennett has dismissed Occam's Razor as a dumb idea from the internet (rather than, you know, the foundation of all rational inquiry), but luckily Josh in CharlotteNC provided another way of looking at it, based on another famous principle:
I'm going to go with Hanlon's Razor now. "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
Bennett is assuming malice against his 1-star review. You're assuming stupidity on the part of telco-astroturfing efforts. Therefore, I'm going with stupidity on the part of the telcos, who have been proven to engage in similar stupidity before.
(Of course, we could also all just cite Poe's Law and assume Bennett was joking, or Sturgeon's Law with his argument firmly in the 90% category.)
That's all for this week, folks!